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Criminal Psychology Of Serial Killers

The emergence of serial killers has posed a significant challenge to the legal system in India. As these heinous crimes continue to make headlines, it becomes imperative to delve into the minds of serial killers to better understand their motives and behavior. This article explores the criminal psychology of serial killers, its historical context in India, the role of psychological profiling, motives and triggers, mental health assessments, and the existing legal provisions and challenges in prosecuting serial killers within the Indian legal framework.

To begin with Psychology, it is the scientific study of the mind and behavior. When the study is about the examination of a criminal's thoughts and actions in order to assess and identify patterns that may help the police or other law enforcement agencies catch criminals or support a court's proceedings, it is called Criminal psychology. The Criminal Psychologists are actively involved in studying and understanding mental processes, brain functions, and behavior of the criminals.

Serial murder is a rare phenomenon, comprising less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year. However, the impact of their crimes on society is profound, making it crucial to understand the psychological factors that drive these individuals to commit repeated acts of violence. The study of serial killers can help shed light on issues such as mental illness, and psychopathy, which can be important for developing strategies to prevent and address violent crime.

Talking about Serial Killer, what makes a murderer a serial killer? Serial killers are individuals who commit multiple murders over time. They often have troubled pasts, which can lead to personality problems. These killers don't have clear reasons for their crimes; they do it mainly for the act itself, even though it doesn't really solve their underlying problems.

The motivations and mental state of serial killers have long fascinated criminal psychologists, law enforcement, and the general public. People are often curious about whether these individuals can be considered severely mentally ill and disconnected from reality.

While there is no single psychological profile that fits all serial killers, several recurring traits have been observed like:
  • Childhood Trauma: Many serial killers have experienced childhood trauma, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of them suffered abuse during their formative years. In India, legal provisions for child protection are crucial in addressing such issues.
  • Lack of Empathy and Remorse: Serial killers often exhibit a disturbing absence of empathy and remorse for their actions. They seem incapable of understanding or caring about the suffering of their victims. The Indian legal system recognizes the importance of assessing an accused person's mental state, including their capacity for empathy, in determining guilt or innocence.
  • Antisocial Behavior: Extreme antisocial behavior characterizes many serial killers. They disregard both legal and social norms, showing no regard for the laws that govern society. This behavior is essential in understanding their actions and motivations under Indian criminal law.
  • Desire for Control: Serial killers prefer "hands-on" murder techniques such as strangulation, stabbing, or beating over shooting. This preference is thought to provide them with a greater sense of personal control over their victims. The choice of murder method can be a crucial piece of evidence in Indian criminal investigations.
  • Rich Fantasy Life: Many serial killers have a rich fantasy life that fuels their appetite for murder. These fantasies, combined with other facilitative conditions like pornography and substance abuse, can trigger their violent acts. Detecting and understanding these fantasies is a challenge for law enforcement and forensic experts in India.
  • Desire for Revenge: Many serial killers have a strong desire for revenge, either against specific individuals or against society as a whole. This desire for vengeance often drives them to commit violent and terrifying crimes.

While it's true that some serial killers may have experienced psychotic breaks that triggered their crimes, the majority of them are not typically found to be legally insane. Instead, what stands out as a consistent psychological trait among serial killers is extreme antisocial behavior.

India has witnessed a number of high-profile serial killer cases over the years, which have left an indelible mark on its legal landscape. Notable cases include the Nithari killings and the Stoneman murders. These cases have not only shocked the nation but have also necessitated changes in the way the legal system handles such gruesome crimes. They serve as stark reminders of the need to comprehend the psychological intricacies behind serial killing.

Psychology and law enforcement often work hand in hand, in dealing with individuals suffering from mental illness, understanding the motivation behind criminal activity and providing care or resources to the individuals that need them.

Collaborations between law enforcement agencies and psychologists are becoming increasingly common in India. Such profiles help investigators narrow down suspects, potentially saving time and resources. Understanding the art of profiling is vital in cracking serial killer cases within India.

Psychological Profiling:
Psychological profiling is a crucial tool in identifying and apprehending serial killers.

The criminal profiling process is defined by the FBI as a technique used to identify the perpetrator of a violent crime by identifying the personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based upon an analysis of the crime committed.

Criminal profiling is an in-depth analysis of the crime scene and finding common patterns with previous incidents. It helps to identify the choice of victims, manner, time and location, types of the crime, communication from the suspect and the condition of the crime scene.

Criminal profiling techniques are grounded in four primary approaches: geographical profiling, clinical profiling, investigative psychology, and typological profiling.
  • Geographical Approach: This method aims to establish connections between crimes and make educated guesses about where offenders might live or work. It involves analyzing patterns in the location and timing of crimes.
  • Clinical Approach: Focused on individuals suspected of having mental health issues or psychological abnormalities, this approach draws on insights from psychiatry and clinical psychology to guide the investigation.
  • Investigative Psychology: Building upon the geographical approach, investigative psychology incorporates established psychological theories and methods to predict an offender's behavioral traits and characteristics.
  • Typological Approach: This approach involves analyzing crime scene characteristics to group offenders based on common traits or patterns.
Thus, criminal profiling techniques entail a thorough examination of crime scenes to identify recurring patterns. Ultimately, criminal profilers can draw conclusions about possible motives behind the crimes. However, it's essential to note that criminal profiling is not a tool for pinpointing a specific offender but rather for determining who is most likely to have committed the crime.

Motives and Triggers:
Serial killers are often driven by complex motives, including a desire for power, control, and even pathological impulses. It is essential to explore these motives to develop a comprehensive understanding of their crimes. Through case studies of Indian serial killers like Raman Raghav and Surinder Koli, it becomes evident that the motives behind their actions are as diverse as the killers themselves.The knowledge of motives can aid in sentencing and rehabilitation efforts.

Understanding the mental state and intent of criminals is essential in legal proceedings. Psychologists often evaluate the accused to determine if they were of sound mind when they committed the crimes. This assessment can influence the legal proceedings and the punishment that the accused may receive.

The Department of Forensic Pathology & Toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences plays a critical role in these cases. They provide expert analysis and evidence related to the cause of death and other forensic aspects. This evidence is vital in proving the guilt or innocence of the accused in court.

Mental Health Assessment:
Assessing the mental health of serial killers is a critical aspect of the legal process. Forensic psychiatrists and psychologists play a pivotal role in evaluating the mental state of the accused. The Indian legal framework recognizes the importance of mental health assessments, and these evaluations often influence the sentencing of serial killers. An understanding of the mental health aspects is essential to ensure a fair and just legal process.

Legal Provisions and Challenges:
The Indian legal framework, including sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, has evolved to address serial killings. However, prosecuting serial killers presents numerous challenges.

The burden of proof, admissibility of psychological evidence, and issues related to confessions pose significant hurdles. The legal system must adapt to meet these challenges effectively. International best practices in legal reforms and improvements can serve as a guide in this regard.

The legal provisions are same as of murder, u/s 299 and 300 of The Indian penal code, 1860, which is punished u/s 302 & 304 of IPC. In addition some other provisions as, If serial killings involve kidnapping and ransom demands, Section 364A. In cases where serial killings involve sexual offenses,Section 376, deals with the punishment for rape. If multiple individuals are involved in a conspiracy to commit serial killings, they can be charged under Section 120B.

Cases in India:
Nithari Hatyakand (also known as 2006 Noida serial murders)
In the official investigation and searches conducted by the authorities, the pattern, timeline, motives, and the way of these serial murders was discovered, seeing which Surender Koli's criminal behavior, characterized by a series of heinous crimes over two years, can be attributed to psychopathy.

His psychopathic traits include a lack of remorse and empathy, manipulativeness, and egocentricity. Koli displayed a disturbing calmness during his arrest and interviews, demonstrating hollow emotions. His manipulative tactics, scapegoating, and ability to evade suspicion for an extended period highlight his versatility and cunning nature. Medical tests revealed abnormalities in his ganglion and frontal lobes, contributing to his inability to feel empathy and control his emotional responses, ultimately underscoring the role of neurological factors in his actions.

Chandrakhant Jha
In July 2022, Chandrakhant Jha was featured in the Netflix documentary "Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi" for his infamous series of serial killings that occurred from 1998 to 2007. Currently, he is on 90 days Parole reasoning to make arrangements for marriage for his 4 daughters, as no other male members in the family.

Jha, a migrant laborer hailing from Bihar, is accused of murdering approximately 20 fellow migrant workers in Delhi. He used to slice their bodies into pieces, stuffed them into baskets and dumped the severed bodies of victims outside Tihar jail for years. At present, he is behind the bars and serving a life sentence.

Chandrakant Jha's descent into violence began when he was stabbed in a clash with a local goon in Delhi. This traumatic incident sowed the seeds of revenge, leading him to seek power and control over others. An argument with a union leader resulted in false charges and imprisonment for both him and his innocent wife. In prison, he experienced police brutality, further fueling his resentment and vengeance.

Chandrakant's violent tendencies may have been influenced by his upbringing and genetics, which were triggered by the harsh circumstances in Delhi. His lack of remorse and fascination with power drove him to commit gruesome murders, with his traumatic past playing a significant role in his descent into the Butcher of Delhi.

There are many other cases as:
  • Gowri Shankar a.k.a. Auto Shankar
  • Thug Behram
  • Stoneman
  • Raman Raghav (Jack the Ripper of India)
  • Anjanabai, Seema Gavit, and Renuka Shinde (the child killers of India)
  • Cyanide Mohan and many others

Hence, with reference to these cases, the criminal psychology of all these serial killers were dependent on different traits like a history of childhood trauma, a lack of empathy and remorse, and extreme antisocial behavior. These factors, along with a desire for control and revenge, shape their motivations and actions. These can't be put in a straight line method, every case and psychology behind that crime must be traced out to know the exact reason for commencing such heinous crime.

Further, this also lead us to conduct study on these matters, like as a society, how we can stop the turning of a person into a serial killer.

In conclusion, understanding the criminal psychology of serial killers is crucial for the Indian legal framework. It not only aids in solving these gruesome cases but also informs the legal procedures, from profiling suspects to assessing their mental health. The need for a multidisciplinary approach involving both legal and psychological expertise cannot be overstated.

By integrating these insights into the legal system, India can better prevent, prosecute, and rehabilitate serial killers, ensuring justice for victims and society as a whole. As the nation grapples with this disturbing phenomenon, a deeper understanding of the criminal psyche is our most potent weapon in the fight against serial killers.

A deeper understanding of the criminal psychology of serial killers can lead to more effective prevention, prosecution, and rehabilitation strategies within the Indian legal system.


  1. The cause and legal aspects of Serial killing in India /GURU PRASAD

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